UK Pension Deficits Widen in May

The aggregate funding level of the PPF’s 7800 Index dropped to 94.5% from 95.1%.

After rising 2% in April, the funding level of the 5,588 pension plans in the Pension Protection Fund’s (PPF) 7800 Index slid to 94.5% from 95.1% in May, as the aggregate deficit increased to £94 billion ($125.7 billion) at the end of the month, from £81.7 billion ($109.3 billion) at the end of April.

Total assets for the plans were £1.61 trillion, representing a 2.1% increase for the month, and a 3.5% rise over the year. At the same time, total liabilities were £1.7 trillion, an increase of 2.8% over the month, and a decrease of 1.1% over the year. The PPF said the monthly rise in asset values reflected the impact of higher equity and bond prices.

Among the plans in the index, 65.5%, or 3,659 plans, were in deficit at the end of May, while 34.5%, or 1,929 plans, were in surplus. This is compared to 65.1%, or 3,637 plans in deficit, and 34.9%, or 1,951 in surplus, at the end of April.  At the same time last year, 71.3%, or 3,986 plans, were in deficit, while only 28.7%, or 1,602 plans, were in surplus.

Although the plans’ aggregate deficit widened in May, it is still 44% lower than it was at the same time last year, when the deficit for the plans totaled £167.9 billion. The funding level is also more than 4% higher than the 90.3% recorded in May 2017.

Among the plans that were in deficit, the aggregate deficit is estimated to have increased to £206.4 billion at the end of May, from £194.9 billion at the end of April. However, this is down 23% from the £252.1 billion reported at the end of May 2017. And among the plans in surplus, the aggregate surplus decreased less than 1% to £112.3 billion from £113.2 billion at the end of April, but was up 25% from the year-ago period when the surplus stood at £84.2 billion.

The PPF also reported that conventional 15-year gilt yields fell by 14 basis points in May, while index-linked five- to 15-year gilt yields fell by 11 basis points. Equity markets and gilt yields are the main drivers of funding levels, according to the PPF.